Opinions on Article III? The Executive Committee is Listening!

It is clear that there are quite a few opinions concerning Article III of the SBC constitution. It spells out messenger qualifications and the Executive Committee has set forth some proposals for altering it. These have raised quite a few discussions here at SBC Voices and elsewhere. Links to our related articles are at the bottom of this post.

In an article in Baptist Press Tuesday, we have evidence that the the Executive Committee wants to hear what average Baptists have to say about these changes. Actually, they are always willing to hear our input, if we bother to give it. But on this issue they are raising their responsiveness to a new level.

In that article, Ernest Easley answers many of the questions people have had about the proposed changes and gives some of the thinking behind the proposal. It is worth the read.

Seeking Our Opinions

But the EC is also soliciting our opinions on the matter. I made a joke during the discussions that I was confident Dr. Page read every word and every comment published here. That was a joke. I’m sure our leaders sometimes peruse blogs, but they are too busy to spend their days sifting through lengthy comment streams to figure out our opinions.

But  they are willing to listen. If you have an opinion about Article III, you can email it to article3@sbc.net and it will be registered. Do it! Let the EC know what you think. Write reasonable, well-argued, but preferably brief statements of opinion on the issues.

Article III Proposal

Here is the text of the proposed Article III being considered by the EC.

Article III. Composition: The Convention shall consist of messengers who are members of Baptist churches in cooperation with the Convention at levels which the Convention, from time to time, determines. The following subparagraphs describe the Convention’s current standards and method of determining the maximum number of messengers the Convention will recognize from each cooperating church to attend the Convention’s annual meeting.

1. The Convention will only deem a church to be in friendly cooperation with the Convention, and sympathetic with its purposes and work (i.e., a “cooperating” church as that descriptive term is used in the Convention’s governing documents) which:

(1) Has not intentionally operated in any manner demonstrating opposition to the doctrine expressed in the Convention’s most recently adopted statement of faith. (By way of example, churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior would be deemed not to be in cooperation with the Convention.)

(2) Has formally approved its intention to cooperate with the Southern Baptist Convention. (By way of example, the regular filing of the annual report requested by the Convention would be one indication of such cooperation.)

(3) Has made undesignated, financial contribution(s) through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity during the fiscal year preceding.

2. Under the terms above, the Convention will recognize to participate in its annual meeting two (2) messengers from each cooperating church, and such additional messengers as are permitted below.

3. The Convention will recognize one (1) additional messenger from each cooperating church for each full percent of the church’s undesignated receipts or for each six thousand dollars ($6,000), whichever is less, which the church contributed during the fiscal year preceding through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity.

4. The messengers shall be appointed and certified by their church to the Convention, but the Convention will not recognize more than twelve (12) from any cooperating church.

5. Each messenger shall be a member of the church by which he or she is appointed.

6. If a church experiences a natural disaster or calamitous event and, as a result, the church is not qualified to appoint as many messengers as the church could appoint for the Convention’s annual meeting immediately before the event, the church’s pastor or an authorized church representative may, for no more than the three (3) annual meetings after the event, certify the facts to the registration secretary and obtain the same number of messengers it could have certified for the Convention’s annual meeting immediately before the event.

You are welcome to express your opinions here, but why not tell the good folks at the EC what you think? Remember, it is article3@sbc.net to voice your opinion.

Links to Previous Articles

Proposed SBC Messenger Formula: Not Very Small Church Friendly? (by William Thornton)
Thoughts About Article III (by Bart Barber)
Is the SBC Positioning to Be Able to Oust Half Of Its Churches? (by Alan Cross)
The BF&M Communion Issue: There Is Only 1 Solution (by Dave Miller)

Comments

  1. william thornton says

    I’d redo the title of my original piece. Once Bart told us more than BP did, especially that a church gets two messengers for a ‘cup of coffee’ as the EC chair said, I don’t see any harm to small churches.

    The BFM is the deal, and while I appreciate the Q & A with Ernest Easley, it avoids dealing with that. I’d use the ‘elephant in the room’ here but the phrase is overused and ought to be banned, so I won’t.

    The key phrase on a church being in friendly cooperation with the Convention is that the church, “Has not intentionally operated in any manner demonstrating opposition to the doctrine expressed in the Convention’s most recently adopted statement of faith.”

    Since no church is required to take positive action on the BFM, this is a way of forcing a negative adoption of it instead. Easley offers no explanation at all. Exactly what is this undefined “intentional operation” in opposition to the BFM that would cause a church to cease to be in friendly cooperation?

    If a church has intentionally stated that the 1925, 1963, and 2000 BFM statements are acceptable is this opposition?

    If a church has a relationship with the CBF is this in opposition? Bart mentioned this first in his piece, so I suspect that this was discussed and may be the key here. But the CBF has NO statement of faith, so I’m not sure what a church has to do with the CBF to be at risk. Must be something or Bart would not have written with them in mind.

    A church that practices open communion, a subject that generated endless comments here last week, would seem to qualify as violating that negative adoption of the BFM. Why no comment from the EC chairman on that? The Q & A reflected some of the things discussed here, just not the main thing. Why? Is the EC whistling past the graveyard here. Let’s take it head-on gentlemen.

    A church that calls a female staff member, non senior pastor, a “pastor”, is that a violation? Or a church that has women who function as some type of pastor through teaching or ministry, is that a violation?

    A church that has a dual affiliation with another denomination, one that has a statement of faith that does not correspond to the BFM, is this in opposition? Do not many African-American SBC churches have such dual affiliation? Do the AA denominational bodies have such faith statements?

    Seems to me that it is difficult enough as it is to force adherence to the BFM as a requirement for being in friendly cooperation and to not require adoption but rather to force a negative adoption, determining what constitutes “intentionally operat[ing] in any manner demonstrating opposition” to the BFM, just multiplies the difficulty .

    Surely, someone is going to explain why we are doing this now and how the SBC for all these scores of years has not had such linkage but seemed to function nicely. Surely someone will explain how Mullins, Hobbs, and then Rogers failed to understand or see the necessity of putting this in the Constitution.

    Going forward, I can envision a new church asking, “What must we do to be an SBC church? Do we have to adopt the BFM?”

    “No, absolutely not. But you cannot ‘diss’ it or you’re outa here.”

    “What constitutes ‘dissin’ it?”

    “We’re not gonna tell you but we know it when we see it.”

    • John Fariss says

      My concerns are much the same as William’s. I know of several churches which are dually aligned, and only two of those involve the CBF. Others involve one of the traditional African American conventions. There is a church in northern Virginia which, some 15 or 20 years ago when I met their (now-retired) pastor, had some sort of ties to the ABC (and I am not clear exactly what those are) as well as to the SBC. Then there are churches which have ties to Acts 29, which is of course not a “denomination,” but then neither is the CBF. Although I have not checked in some time, as someone pointed out in a previous comment string, the CBF used to count as “cooperating church” as one from which any contributions came, even if they were from a single individual and not officially from the church. Mind you, we do not fall into that category. The church I serve made a conscious decision some years ago to give financial support to the CBF’s mission activities as well as the SBC’s.

      As William points out, there are other issues which, as matters or integrity, should be settled before this is voted on: if a woman in the position of a “minister,” i.e., of youth, children, music, etc., violates the articles. There are many conservative, 2000BF&M-affirming churches which do this, but many others which say this is a violation. A further question is if the same person preforming the same tasks but with a different title violates it (we have a female Youth Minister, but when our Annual Church Letter goes in, they inevitably change her title to “Director of Youth Activities”). And if all that needs is a change of title. . . haven’t we gotten awfully legalistic?

      And yes, there is still the issue of communion. Surely that isn’t going to be just swept under the rug, to be used only when convenient.

      If the object is to force churches to align solely with the SBC, then be honest about it up front and word it that way. If we are put in that position, we will study all the options open to us: SBC, CBF, NBCoA, NBC USA, etc., rather than a knee-jerk reaction to align with either SBC or CBF.

      John

  2. Tarheel says

    Question for any fellow SBCVoices poster who’d like to answer;

    Might a lot of the confusion be eliminated if we required affirmation of the most current BFM from all churches in order to be in full friendly cooperation?

    Would this be a good or bad idea and why?

    • John Fariss says

      It would settle some of this issue–but not all. For instance, it would not settle the question of, “What constitutes having a female ‘pastor’?” There was a lot of disagreement on this site in the last week or so over that, some of you saying that applies only to the senior or lead pastor, and others saying it applies to any female in a paid staff position, i.e., music, youth, or children’s minister. Then there is the question of unpaid music “directors,” many of whom are female and in smaller churches function as “music ministers.” That would create uncertainty. It also would not settle the question of “What actions on a church’s part rise to the level of a dismissable violation, and what actions do not?” And the real questions would involve issues of conscience and autonomy. If that happens, the SBC would have to give up even the faintest claim to not being a creedal denomination.

      John

      • Tarheel says

        I have not argued as you portray…though perhaps others have (I do not remember it though).

        I simply made the point that while the BFM2000 leaves open (as it should) to churches whether they employ a single pastor, or a plurality of pastors pastoral structure in their churches..it is very clear (as is the bible) that the office of pastor is reserved to men.

        Women can serve in ministry in the church (the BFM even mentions this) but they must not serve as pastors (and one would reasonably assume that means at minimum officially calling them pastors, or having the recognized as pastors, and certainly giving them overseer responsiblities.)

        I have not, nor does the BFM, nor does the bible prohibit females from serving under the authority of the male pastor(s) in leadership (directors, Sunday school teachers, ect…) roles with churches.

        That is my position….I know it may have gotten convoluted or jumbled in the back and forth that was going down between myself and Dwight….but there it is.

        • John Fariss says

          Tarheel, I do not recall now who make which argument. If my memory is wrong, then I apologize. However my recollection is that some argued that as long as the senior or lead pastor was male and all others served under his supervision, then having female staff as children, youth, music, etc., ministers was not in violation of the 2000 BF&M. Others however (per my memory) argued that if any female served in any role which had pastoral responsibilities, regardless of title or other details, that church was in violation of the 2000 BF&M. If such arguments indeed took place, then at a minimum, any article such as the proposed one should clarify its exact meaning, else we are right where William said, “We’re not going to tell you, but we’ll know it when we see it.”

          You said, “it is very clear (as is the bible) that the office of pastor is reserved to men. Women can serve in ministry in the church (the BFM even mentions this) but they must not serve as pastors (and one would reasonably assume that means at minimum officially calling them pastors, or having the recognized as pastors, and certainly giving them overseer responsiblities.)” I would ask if where the differentiation between “pastoral responsibilities” and “ministry” is at. Is it title? Is it administration? Is it in being paid verses volunteer? The two terms seem rather muddled to me. Any help would be appreciated.

          John

    • Doug Hibbard says

      It would settle it.

      It would also very likely reduce the burdens of administration for the EC and all other CP supported entities because they’d have less to administrate over.

      Here’s the issue: times change. Many of us are well-plugged into that, but the churches we lead are not as connected to why a move like requiring positive adoption of the BFM would be necessary.

      And most of them were raised and taught by godly people that the Southern Baptist Convention would never do such a thing–keep in mind that “No creed but the Bible” is not a recent invention of a saying. It’s one that has long been repeated in Baptist life. I want to claim I saw it referenced in an old official SBC publication that’s in the church library–but the film strip projector broke last time we used it, so I can’t go back and validate it.

      So we would see churches resist this not because of a dislike for the BF&M or a liberal bent or any other actual problem. We would see resistance because many of the wise (and wizened) leaders of churches were taught by Baptist churches and Baptist leaders to resist the idea that a central authority would require a Baptist church to do anything.

      And no, the two SBC Annual meetings it would take to pass this into the Constitution and By-laws is not enough time to truly turn that ship. Consider it from this perspective: if proposed in this manner by the EC at the 2014 Convention, it will then be passed in Baltimore and then re-passed in 2015, making it the rule within 16 months.

      Baptist churches move slowly–and to change decades of adherence to an idea will take longer than a year.

      Now–should it be done?

      If I were starting a denomination from scratch, I would absolutely make positive affirmation of a statement of faith a requirement. I would also make a minimal financial/service participation a requirement. I would hard-encode the statement faith rather than “most recent BFM” or such–but I would absolutely do it.

      The problem is not the end result. The problem is the change.

    • William Thornton says

      Imagine the Xcomm policing all 47k SBC churches to certify that they have formally adopted the BFM. Even if they could wave a wand and cause it to be done, then what would be done with the open communion churches? Would they be required to certify that they do not so practice?

      And exactly what confusion would not be left by this. One just moves the confusion to what the BFM says and how it should be applied. We no longer have to amend the SBC constitution to handle problems, we just amend the BFM to do that.

      Drop the BFM linkage. Proceed with the numbers, dollars, and percentages. Or, explain why, now, we have to plug in the BFM after all these decades.

    • Bill Mac says

      Would that not turn the BFM from a confession into a creed? Would it not guarantee that the BFM could not be changed? And what if it was changed? Suddenly all the churches have to reaffirm the new revision?

      It would be bad.

      • says

        The way it is worded in the article, any updates to the adopted statement of faith would be required to be accepted–or at least not “intentionally opposed.”

        Requiring a positive affirmation would end up the same way if you place “positively affirmed” in place of “intentionally opposed.” As was stated by Bart Barber’s post here a few days ago, technically the “Baptist Faith and Message” is really the most recent adopted one. We can call it BFM2K vs. BFM63 all we want, but for the SBC, BFM2K is the official statement.

        That’s part of the issue with this: where does it go forward to? What does it require of churches as the BFM is updated and expanded?

      • Tarheel says

        It’s already a creed…we just pretend it’s better to call it a confession. Lol.

        It can be changed and amended in the same way it’s done now..there’s safeguards in place currently to avoid frivilous and erratic changes with input from the various churches.

        As its amended, the churches would have to to pisitively of firm the changes or opt out of friendly cooperation with the convention. Autonomy is not impacted as the local church always has the final say as to whether they affirm or not.

        • Tarheel says

          “to to pisitively of firm the changes or opt out.”

          Should read;

          “to positively affirm the changes or opt out…”

  3. Adam Blosser says

    The following is the letter I just sent.

    To Whom It May Concern:

    My name is Adam Blosser and I am the pastor of Drakes Branch Baptist Church in Drakes Branch, VA. I am also a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary finishing my M.Div. this May. I have attended Southern Baptist churches from the time I was born, and have been a member of three different SBC churches. My love and appreciation for the Southern Baptist Convention has increased as I have grown in my knowledge of its history and mission. I am a Southern Baptist first by birth, but now by conviction.

    The Executive Committee has asked to hear from Southern Baptists like me regarding the proposed changes to Article III of the SBC constitution. I am writing to share a few thoughts. I have read several Baptist Press articles discussing the changes, including the latest one that has the text of the proposed changes. I have also participated in several discussions at SBC Voices concerning these changes.
    I have no qualms with the updates to the messenger representation formulas.

    I don’t anticipate that it really hurts or helps more than a handful of churches. The church I pastor is currently allocated 10 messengers to the convention (though we typically only send 1 or 2, if that). Under the new formula, we will be allocated 12 messengers because our giving to convention causes is well over 10% of our undesignated receipts when including the 10% we give to the CP along with our gifts to the LMCO and AAEO. We are a small church of 80-100 on Sunday morning and give sacrificially to the work of the SBC every year.

    The area of the proposal that does concern me is regarding the first definition of friendly cooperation, “Has not intentionally operated in any manner demonstrating opposition to the doctrine expressed in the Convention’s most recently adopted statement of faith.” I appreciate what I perceive to be the intent of the statement. Our cooperation together is only as good as our shared commitment to the authority of the Bible. There should be no place in the SBC for churches that endorse homosexual behavior or deny the authority of Scripture and other essentials of our faith. Also, this statement does not impede on local church autonomy as some have argued.

    However, the BF&M 2000, while an excellent document that the church I pastor has adopted as our statement of faith, is a little more specific in some areas than I would argue is necessary for cooperation in the SBC. The primary area of concern is related to the Lord’s Supper. I understand the BF&M to teach a doctrine of closed communion. While I am aware of the merits of that view and am at least sympathetic to it, I cannot imagine that this is an area that we are willing to divide over. Lifeway did a study several years ago and found that over half of SBC churches practice open communion. That statistic does not surprise me as all of the SBC churches that I have ever been a part of practice open communion.

    I realize that it is not the intention of this statement to exclude from friendly cooperation those churches that practice open communion. I also realize that it is extremely unlikely that the convention would vote to unseat messengers from a church practicing open communion, especially if the Lifeway research is an accurate representation of SBC churches. However, that does not mean we should pass a definition of friendly cooperation that would in theory exclude half of our churches even if it does not exclude them in practice. I would encourage the Executive Committee to consider new wording that preserves the intent of the statement without putting half of SBC churches at odds with the convention.
    Thank you for the opportunity to voice my concerns. I know that a lot of work has gone into developing this proposal. Thank you for the work you are doing for the Southern Baptist Convention. May God bless the SBC!

    Adam Blosser
    Pastor
    Drakes Branch Baptist Church

    • Jeff Johnson says

      I agree that this is thoughtful and well-written, and I’m glad somebody has voiced it in this manner to the committee.

  4. william thornton says

    The answer to the dollar amount, percentage adjustments is in response to the motion last June.

    Adding the BFM seems to me to still be a solution in search of a problem. I wish someone would explain why, after all the years, after three successive BFM statements we feel it necessary to force a negative adoption of it onto all present and future SBC churches.

    Maybe some PhD is working on that and, in keeping with the EC’s deliberate pacing of this, glacial pace I’d label it, we may get it later.

  5. Roger Simpson says

    Now that the text of the proposal is available it is possible to look at it and see where potential word-smithing is advisable.

    The section which is raising all the discussion is this paragraph:

    (1) Has not intentionally operated in any manner demonstrating opposition to the doctrine expressed in the Convention’s most recently adopted statement of faith. (By way of example, churches which act to affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior would be deemed not to be in cooperation with the Convention.)

    The question of “open / close / close / modified open communion” does not come up explicitly in the above paragraph but a straight reading of the BFM 2000 denotes either “close” or “closed” communion. The church I’m a member of practices “modified open” communion as does every church I’ve been a member of since 1958 [all of them were Baptist].

    I think there has to be a way to disassociate the messenger allocation for a given church from the whole issue of “closed” / “open” / “close” / “modified communion”. The only way I can see to move forward is to delete the paragraph at issue from Article III.

    Then, over time, the convention needs to do some wordsmithing on the BFM to address the Lord’s Table. Our problem is that the BFM is out of sync with what most churches are doing. The BFM has to be more general in its terminology regarding the Lord’s Supper so that “some form of open” (such as the “modified open” as described by David Rogers) is compatible with the BFM.

    Once this is done then we can look at Article III again.

    The BFM is not something that has been addressed very often. It has only been modified three times since 1925 — i.e. about once every 30 years.
    However, the BFM will become meaningless if people ignore it with impunity. So I think an “emergency” working group needs to be formed to see if it is feasible to touch up article VII. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper of the BFM.

    Maybe a prudent action would be for someone to offer a motion in Baltimore that would offer a motion to form a Committee to ONLY look at revisions to section VII of the BFM. This would continue the process of untangle the knot right now between Article III and Section VII.

    Roger Simpson Oklahoma City OK

      • Roger Simpson says

        William Thornton:

        By “emergency” I mean honing in on only Article VII. of the BFM within the next three to five years rather than waiting for the next general update of the BFM which, if the past is any guide, will likely happen in around 2030.

        Roger

  6. Louis says

    I have gone on record clearly stating that Christians working together should have a common confession of faith regarding what they believe.

    But confessions change over time. Changes occur because somewhere along the way different opinions develop about different matters.

    It seems to me that an atmosphere that allows some divergence on minor points is appropriate. Otherwise, any church that developed a different thinking or different practice would be kicked out immediately.

    Under that scenario, Baptist churches that began to accept baptisms from other churches (alien immersion) or practiced open communion were allowed to remain in the SBC. Over time, the open communion practice became the prevalent practice in SBC churches, I believe.

    It is a difficult question. Confessions serve a very useful purpose. Without one, there are many difficulties.

    But how far to drill down on the particulars, and whether to require that each church sign on to all particulars, are good questions.

    Unfortunately, I do not believe in the common sense of many people. If the right people were in charge, we could see Calvinism, open communion, alien immersion, the plurality of elders etc. all become barriers to church participation in the SBC. There have even been resolutions passed stating that no person who consumes alcoholic beverages should be a trustee or employee of any SBC entity. That is not in the BFM, thankfully.

    The best practice, I believe, is to update the confessions straightforwardly in non-essential areas where divergent practices develop.

    But we need a place, procedurally, where that can happen.

    That is probably why it is not best that each church be required to affirm or “not dis” (to borrow from William) the BFM. The BFM is a common confession adopted by the Convention. It has lots of particulars. I do not recommend that churches be kicked out that do not affirm all of the particulars.

    But as to denominational agencies and employees, I am fully in favor of the BFM being a controlling document (not the only document. Each agency may have employment and other policies that might apply.)

    I have to agree with William.

    This seems like a solution in search of a problem.

    • David Rogers says

      So, Louis, are you saying you would be in favor of not allowing those affirming open or modified open communion to serve as denominational employees?

      • Louis says

        David,

        Good catch. No, I am not in favor of that. On that one, the cat is out of the bag so to speak. SBC practice has gone beyond what the BFM says. There are many people in Nashville who work at the SBC building who attend churches that have open communion. Can’t imagine kicking them all out. I think that would include Thom Rainer and Auggie (sp?) Boto, who both attend Brentwood Baptist.

  7. Dave Miller says

    Actually, it is often better to make policy when there is not a huge crisis to deal with. Waiting for an emergency tends to foster bad policy.

    • says

      This is quite true. Better to do it while no crisis and while people are trusted–

      That’s the rule for church changes, too. Better to get the financial accountability while Old Bob who you trust is the treasurer. Keeps New Bob from feeling put upon.

    • says

      Dave, I agree that it is best to make policy when there isn’t a huge crisis. Having said that do you not think coming off of a crisis and adopting a policy is not wise? I mean, really, do you not think this policy has some lingering ideas that would go back to the crisis we have come through? What was the main complaint of those pushing the GCR? Remember the statement from the Calvinism Committee–“the BF&M is sufficient”?

  8. Jeff Johnson says

    The following is taken from the “Report of the Baptist Faith and Message Study Committee to the Southern Baptist Convention” adopted on June 14, 2000. Based on this, since at least 1925 the SBC has been consistent in recognizing that individual churches may adopt statements of faith that are different in some respects than the BF&M. The proposed amendment to Article III seems to represent a substantial departure from the Convention’s own understanding of the BF&M’s purpose and scope. Maybe that departure is a necessary one. Even so, I think it would be fair to revisit some of the particulars of the BF&M if the Convention is going to significantly change the way it uses the document.

    [quotation begins now]

    With the 1963 committee, we have been guided in our work by the 1925 “statement of the historic Baptist conception of the nature and function of confessions of faith in our religious and denominational life . . . .” It is, therefore, quoted in full as a part of this report to the Convention:

    (1) That they constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us. They are not intended to add anything to the simple conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament, viz., repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.

    (2) That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future, Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.

    (3) That any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.

    (4) That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.

    (5) That they are statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life.

    Baptists cherish and defend religious liberty, and deny the right of any secular or religious authority to impose a confession of faith upon a church or body of churches. We honor the principles of soul competency and the priesthood of believers, affirming together both our liberty in Christ and our accountability to each other under the Word of God.

  9. David (NAS) Rogers says

    I don’t think the BFM should be a requirement for anyone for employment. Instead I think the interview process should allow each prospective employee to offer their own confession of faith and the employment decision makers can decide whether they think they can cooperate in employing that person. If the employer thinks a particular issue needs to be particularly addressed, they can ask. An employee may choose to let the BFM speak for himself or herself or may think that a better declaration can be formulated. The employer can use the current BFM as a conversation starter and guide. The employer can then decide whether the potential differences rise to the level of not allowing employment.

    But that would mean actual conversation, listening and theological formulation would have to take place.

    • Andy says

      I’m curious, would you feel the same way if the BF&M was much shorter, and consisted only of core Christian Beliefs, & perhaps a statement affirming Believers Baptism?

      I’m not saying the conversation/inteview would not go on from there, but would you still be opposed to saying, “If you cannot affirm this simple statement of faith, you will not be considered to be hired here.” Is that not better than saying, “Here is our statement of faith, and we’ll tell you later which parts you can disagree with and still be hired.” ?

      • David (NAS) Rogers says

        A shorter one would be much more acceptable. The nature of the employment position is also a matter where more flexibility is needed. As noted in other comments all around the open/modified open communion issue is one where some could not with integrity sign the current BFM 2000. Tarheel’s assertions aside, the pastor and female minister issue is actually murky with regards to what it actually references.

  10. Andy says

    This whole series of articles has convinced me that the BF&M 2000 is simply TOO SPECIFIC in certain areas. My humble and woefully uninformed opinion is…

    1. I believe it WOULD be advantageous to the SBC as a whole if every cooperating church was required affirm and function according to to a Baptist statement of beliefs. There would be no ambiguity about what church was getting themselves into, and no unwritten list of “acceptable disagreements” vs. “unacceptable disagreements.”

    2. The BF&M 2000 as it stands today is TOO SPECIFIC in some areas to serve this function if the SBC wants to keep anywhere close to the majority of its churches.

    3. If the SBC wants to move this direction, it will have a few choices:
    (a) Re-write the Statement of faith to allow more difference in certain areas such as female non-senior ministry staff, open communion, and perhaps some other issues. My personal opinion would be to widen the scope on these 2 issues, but to keep the 2000 additons that define marraige between a man & a woman…but that’s just me, as the first 2 would not be a reason to disfellowship my church from the SBC, but the marraige issue would be.
    (b) Leave the BF&M as-is, require churches to agree, and deal with losing lots of churches. (this, on the surface appears to be at least possible if the Current Article III amendments go through)
    (c) Do neither, and continue to have a statement of faith that churches are not required to assent to, and occasionally come up with a few specific criteria by which churches can be excluded (Female senior pastors & performng same-sex marraiges seem to be the only 2 I know of right now). This is the most likely option, but maintains some problems with defining what a SBC church is.

    I lean toward (a), as unlikely as that is. I think a simpler statement of faith with more allowances on non-essentials would not bring the back-lash of those who are opposed to adhering to a “creed” …because it is usually the specifics on side issues that bother them. For example, very few people would be opposed to a “rigid” requirement that all SBC churches must affirm the deity of Jesus Christ. It is not the existence, or even the enforcement of a creed that causes problems, but the enforcement of a creed that squeezes too tightly.

  11. says

    I wrote an article about the qualifications for messengers that is bring proposed and now discussed here. I do believe it is time to look at changes for churches sending messengers to the annual meeting. I think as has been stated here, moving to 2 messengers for all cooperating churches is a great move. I believe also the 1% rule is good for additional messengers. Those churches that make the CP a priority as well as Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong giving should be the churches who can send additional messengers to the annual meetings, although it must be stated that very few churches do actually send more than two unless the convention is more local.

    That being said, my question is why the $6000 figure? If a church’s undesignated giving is a million dollars, why reduce their requirement from the 1% of $10K to $6K or a 10 million figure from $100K to $6K? That really makes no sense to me.

    It would seem to me leaving it at 1% for everyone would be the best solution.

    In addition to that, I believe the contributions ought to be limited to CP and Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong giving. The CP is the financial engine that funds the convention and those funds given outside the CP do not need to be counted where messengers are concerned who vote on distributions to CP giving.

  12. Dale Pugh says

    If this passes in its current form, I’ll only get concerned if a couple of guys with thick Southern accents show up at my church, introduce themselves as “J” and “K”, and then start asking whether we accept alien immersions and if we allow those aliens to take the Lord’s Supper.

    • Dale Pugh says

      Seriously, the only thing that really stands out to me is:
      “(1) Has not intentionally operated in any manner demonstrating opposition to the doctrine expressed in the Convention’s most recently adopted statement of faith.”
      This has already been capably addressed by many of the commenters here. I would be inclined to ask for specifics about this point. What demonstrates opposition to the BFM 2000? Would a church be in violation of this if, for instance, they meet on Tuesday night and not on Sunday (Article VIII)? The open communion issue has been the most talked about issue in the comments, so I won’t rehash this. What about those churches that are aligned with state conventions that have not adopted the BFM 2000 (as is the case with the BGCT)? If those churches haven’t specifically acted to adopt the BFM 2000, then wouldn’t they be demonstrating opposition to this proposed article? Is the SBC ready to bar those churches from sending messengers to the Convention? I guess I see a line being drawn in the sand here. Is the EC ready to take that stand?

      • says

        Dale,

        I think the answer of today’s EC would probably be “No” to your question BUT the next question might be, what IF a future EC decided to act on language adopted in Baltimore. I believe that to be the more likely scenario to be concerned with.

      • says

        And Dale,

        How would this be enforced? i.e. how would whoever is in charge of deciding that a church? minister? has “intentionally” “operated in any manner demonstrating opposition to the doctrine expressed in the Convention’s most recently adopted statement of faith” flush this out? Wait till it sort of bubbles up and becomes known? Or wait till someone else reports that church or minister? Maybe self reporting?

        Curious?

    • Dave Miller says

      Well, if J and K show up, enforcement becomes easier. They will probably have some serious gadgets with which to work.

  13. says

    Bob,

    You may be right; the concern might be how will a future EC act on this language? But doesn’t that beg the question, why ate we adopting the language in the first place? Has the EC provided an answer to the why question? What are we trying to accomplish by tinkering with the constitution? Shouldn’t this question be adequately & honestly answered before we ever vote on this proposal?

    • says

      Absolutely. In my opinion change the $250 giving to 1% and leave it at that. All the other language sees to me to be unnecessary and more than was asked in the beginning.

  14. says

    Well if they adopt this language then it opens the door to having a fight on the convention floor every year. Why? Someone somewhere will think that a church is not in friendly cooperation because of some stand that was taken.

    Shoot, if someone opposed to Calvinism really wanted to be cantankerous all one would have to do is make the motion that we remove all who promote a particular atonement theory. The BF&M was written from the perspective of a General Atonement and anyone that wants to argue that Dr. Adrian Rogers did not promote a General Atonement would have a huge uphill battle. I mean, really folks, that wording opens the door for a huge mack truck of dissension to drive through. This is a Pandora’s box I am not sure they have really thought through.

    • Tarheel says

      You’re right about Dr. Rogers, but likewise…anyone who argues that the BFM2000 excludes particular atonement would have an equally uphill battle.

      If you and William are gonna oppose the change…oppose it. Argue against, but don’t throw up straw men to try to bring people into agreement with you…especially scenarios that you’d probably support if they happened…(like throwing out all the Calvinists).

    • Dave Miller says

      That is a strong point Tim. Those challenges would be defeated 99.9% of the time but they could dominate convention floor debate.

  15. John Fariss says

    It is late in the discussion, probably too late for an answer to this, but I will ask it anyway. Those of you who support this change: why is uniformity so important to you? For most of Baptist history, freedom of conscience was one of the guiding principles of Baptist thought. Granted, there always were parameters or limits, and as Bart and others have pointed out, the most important limits were often the unspoken/unwritten/unarticulated ones. Mind you, I have no problem with having limits–first because they are necessary for good health, and second because they will “happen,” either by intention or by human nature. But this seems to me to go beyond a need for healthy limits and into an imposed conformity. Why the need for that?

    John

  16. Louis says

    Agreement is essential to any group, otherwise, there would no reason for the group to work together to accomplish certain tasks.

    Since we are going to pool money together to do missions and all of the other attendant causes, there should be agreement on some basic things.

    Ideally, the agreement would be structured around 1) Christian doctrinal essentials, 2) Baptist distinctives (baptism of confessional believers; the church is made up of confessional believers, local church autonomy, congregational government in its various forms.